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Jean-Charles Renaudat

2 August 2002

Jean-Charles Renaudat

Jean Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been replaced

by a wide-range of

combinable crops

HARVEST has finished following what was one of the shortest campaigns I can remember in 22 years of farming.

All crops were still standing, including rye, with reasonable quantities of straw. Everything was weed free and, with sunshine present for the party, it took two axial flow combines just six full days to do our 145ha (360 acres) of rye and 195ha (482 acres) of continuous wheat.

This summer is the first time we have combined the threshing force of our two farms, even though they are 64km (40 miles) apart. I feared and constantly had in mind the rainy conditions of the previous season which sent rye Hagbergs tumbling.

On the yield side oilseed rape has been disappointing at 2.6t/ha (21cwt/acre) due to frost at flowering and sulphur deficiency. However, with wheat we have reached our farm record of 8.1t/ha (3.3t/acre) with a burst at 9.2t/ha (3.7t/acre) off 17ha (42 acres) following fenugreek as the previous crop. Hagberg is 358, protein 12.4% and specific weight 82kg/hl.

Rye yielded 7.2t/ha (2.9t/acre) with a Hagberg of more than 300. We had a pleasant surprise on the variety side, an open pollinating non-hybrid called Canovus yielding as much as the best hybrids but from seed that is only 40% of the hybrid price.

Grain prices here are still far too low. Wheat is worth k76/t (£49/t) ex-farm. As I have said before, I believe Brussels European policy is buying our next food scandal by allowing the market to languish at these levels.

We have direct drilled second "catch" crops on 50ha (124 acres), foxtail millet following oilseed rape and an early variety of buckwheat following rye. Thanks to irrigation all emerged by the end of July, somewhat late even for a second crop, but we dont rely on these second crops to pay our bills, just our holidays.

Elsewhere, while we are waiting to combine winter beans, fenugreek and carrot seed we are busy spreading and breaking our cereal stubbles with heavy harrows. &#42

The cereal harvest is home on Jean-Charles Renaudats farm in central France, with pleasing wheat and rye results.

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Jean-Charles Renaudat

12 July 2002

Jean-Charles Renaudat

Jean-Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been replaced

by a wide range of

combinable crops

COMBINES are back in our area. Temperatures up to 38C (100F) during the second half of June and no rain since the beginning of the month made for an early start to harvest.

The first winter barley results I have heard are good, from 7t/ha to 8.8t/ha (2.8-3.6t/acre) with 70% above the 2.5mm sieve.

First yield reports for oilseed rape are disappointing, with some as low as 0.8-2t/ha (6-16cwt/acre) due to strong phoma attacks.

Co-operatives are paying an initial k73/t for barley delivered to store, k80/t for wheat and k183/t for oilseed rape. For the cereals, little top-up payment can be expected. Generally local grain merchants are bullish about oilseed rape but bearish about cereals, at least up to October/November. After that much will depend on Ukrainian and Russian crops.

I wonder if spraying expensive fungicides on such low priced crops is still economical. And is it is still an economical decision to spray against fusarium and mycotoxins? The danger is that this market with its excessively low prices will lead to the next food scandal.

Our own oilseed rape was not yet fully ripe at the end of June. Winter rye is still standing and seems promising but this kind of crop is difficult to evaluate because of its height. Straw quantity is not always proportional to grain quantity.

On the second farm, Apache continuous winter wheat will be ready by mid-July with an expected yield of 7-7.5t/ha.

In June, my partner and I went to Regina in Canada for a farm show and to visit some suppliers for our machinery business. It is almost an annual trip so we have seen agriculture there evolve in a farm subsidy-free environment.

Compared with 1977, when I first travelled there as an agricultural college trainee, the number of farms in the region has decreased by about 75%. All those still in business have a similar survival recipe: No borrowing, no till or low till and lots of hard work on a flexible rotation. &#42

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Jean-Charles Renaudat

7 June 2002

Jean-Charles Renaudat

Jean-Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been replaced

by a wide range of

combinable crops

RAIN has returned – in May we had about 60mm (2.4 in), too little too late but better than nothing.

I estimate that the drought has decreased our yield potential by 20-40% depending on the soil depth.

Because rye is very sensitive to a specific rust, we have sprayed a 0.4 litres/ha of Alto (cyproconazole) plus 0.5 litres/ha Amistar (azoxystrobin) at the first sign of pustules. We are watchful for any other attack and ready to strike again. The growth regulators we have used on rye seem to have worked poorly this year and the crop is very tall now. Cold temperatures, low air humidity and drought stress at the time of application are no doubt the cause.

In mid-May we made a costly mistake on 25ha (62 acres) of Incarnatum clover for seed. Before clover starts to flower an insect called "apion" can quickly destroy the reproductive parts of the flowers and decimate seed yield. We usually spray an insecticide before blooming to prevent this damage, but this time it seems the strong insecticide solvent dislodged a residue of broadleaved weed herbicide Pronto (metosulam + fluroxypyr), despite double rinsing the sprayer tank prior to application. The crop was not destroyed, but almost all florets withered before pollination and we can only expect a low yield. Hence we have direct drilled into the 60cm (2ft) tall clover forage a late crop of fenugreek.

We have tested our new "combi-crop" cultivator. It incorporates straw to make a false seed-bed pre-drilling and accurately buries seeds at drilling. The aim is to have just one cultivator for establishment.

With the re-election of Mr Chirac as our President de la Republique we also have a new agriculture minister. He has promised to cancel French subsidy modulation and cut red tape. But until the next parliament election, which takes place in mid-June, all is but promises, as he needs parliaments support. If that arrives expect a pugnacious policy in Brussels to defend the EUs production and export potential. &#42

Expect pugnacious policies in Brussels from the new French agriculture minister, says Jean-Charles Renaudat.

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Jean-Charles Renaudat

10 May 2002

Jean-Charles Renaudat

Jean-Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been replaced

by a wide-range of

combinable crops

WE have had only 14mm (0.6in) of rain in the past 46 days, so we are now talking about a drought.

It is always a difficult decision whether and when to start irrigating. There is the extra workload all week long, including sometimes night work, and, because once a water stressed plant receives irrigation it has to be satisfied all its cycle long, once we start we are committed to keeping going for months.

Anyway, our irrigators are now out, working first in rye crops then moving on to winter beans and fenugreek. Oilseed rape is being sacrificed for the moment.

The variable cost to apply 30mm with this type of high-pressure reel irrigator, including power and manpower to move it, is about £5/ha. With the current price of cereals I am not sure to cover this expense. Fortunately, the fixed costs are very low, because most of the investment in irrigation equipment is fully written off.

The drought has induced many changes in our spraying strategy. Up to now no crops have been "fungicided". Rye received a half-dose of ethephon (2-choroethylphosphonic acid + mepiquat chloride: As in Terpal) mid-April, but the weather was so cold and dry I doubt it has had much effect.

Resistant blackgrass has been less of a problem thanks to the weather pattern this year and the new "sulfo" armoury which seems to bring some solutions. Lexus (flupyrsulfuron-methyl) has done a good job especially when used in March. Results were less consistent when applied earlier. Brome grasses are also under control following enhanced germination before drilling with a shallow pass of the heavy harrows.

A great milestone for this farm was achieved last week with the first on-farm de-hulling of spelt wheat and millet from last harvest. This is the way I want to move the business in future, adding value to the raw material that we produce in our fields, and offering our customers better traceability from field to shop shelf. &#42

"Up to now no crops have been fungicided," says Jean-Charles Renaudat from central France, where drought is beginning to bite.

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Jean Charles Renaudat

12 April 2002

Jean Charles Renaudat

Jean Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been

replaced by a wide-range

of combinable crops

WHILE it is a busy time on the farm, this month I feel I must relay our experiences of modulation here in France because I understand your industry is facing similar proposals.

French area subsidy modulation was supposed to be a justice tool, similar to those used by your Robin Hood – steal from the rich, typically the nasty cereal growers, to help the poor.

The principle is to fill a money box with the withdrawn subsidies from which "good" farmers could apply for funds for rural, social or environmental projects of common interest under a CTE or farm territorial contract.

Rates of modulation on our area subsidies go from 0% for the smaller farms up to 20 % for the biggest with many complicated calculations in between.

For example, the more people the farm employs, the lower the modulation rate/ha. But the opposite is the case if you are a highly efficient farmer with a large area and a small staff.

The results are crazy. Efficient farms with a low workforce are now unprofitable due to the combined effect of modulation and low commodity prices. The wage of a man is still bigger than the modulation you save by employing him so farms are shrinking staff further to try to become still more efficient.

Whats more, the farms that suffer worst are those that can least afford it because they are on low to medium quality soils where you cant grow intensive, high labour requirement crops.

The only levers such farmers can push to counter modulations impact is to cut staff and farm more land to spread costs further – the exact opposite of the original goal. I also believe this new tax distorts competition within the EU.

Two years after the start of modulation, the number of beneficiaries is lower than the number of victims. Every CTE signed needs four days of training and a huge amount of red tape.

Friends in the UK – if you can, steer clear of modulation! &#42

Beware modulation, there are more victims than beneficiaries, says French farmer Jean-Charles Renaudat.

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Jean Charles Renaudat

15 March 2002

Jean Charles Renaudat

Jean Charles Renaudat

farms 560ha (1384 acres)

of brash land 300km south

of Paris. Continuous wheat

has recently been replaced

by a wide-range of

combinable crops

THIS months good news is the sale of my remaining 850t of wheat.

I was concerned that harvest would arrive and I would have one big grain bin still full of good quality wheat and not enough space to store the assured specification rye I am growing.

But the disappointment is the price. The wheat was 13.5% protein, 390 Hagberg and the crop had been grown under severe restrictions – no ipu, no hormone herbicides, no insecticides after harvest, no growth regulators, bird and rodent-proof grain storage to name just a few. These restrictions are supposed to be worth an extra £9.40/t (k15.24/t) bonus, but the final price received ex-farm for July was just £68/t (k110/t) including bonus. I have been farming since 1979 and have never sold wheat for less.

My other news, and I do not know yet if it is a good or bad, is the fact I have bought a 66ha (163-acre) field from one of my landlords on my second farm. The sale has been done in an unusual manner. I make an initial payment which represents about 20% of the lands current £2960/ha (k4800/ha) value. Then, every month, I pay an amount which is negotiated between farmer and original landowner. In my case that will be 160% of a normal farm rent, typically £77/ha (k125/ha). That monthly payment will last as long as the life of my landowner, who is 74 years old. If I fail to pay this monthly payment the contract is cancelled and the landowner keeps all payments. If I die before the landowner my wife or my children can choose whether or not to continue the deal.

The tax difference between a conventional rent and this "life rent" is that the first is deducted from farm profit but the second is not. Hence you can see why it is difficult to know today whether the deal will be a bargain or not. It all depends of the number of monthly payments. &#42

Jean-Charles Renaudat is buying more land on an interesting deal – it guarantees the owner a lifelong income, and he gets the land in the end.

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